November 4, 2013

Maine governor candidate Mike Michaud comes out

The six-term congressman’s announcement in an op-ed column may influence the 2014 election to lead the state.

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

“I write this now merely to let my opponents and the outside interests who fund them know that I am not ashamed of who I am,” he wrote. “And if seeing someone from my background, in my position openly acknowledge the fact that he’s gay makes it a little bit easier for future generations to live their lives openly and without fear, all the better.”

Close confidants of the congressman have often said that Mainers have long known that he’s gay. However, it’s unclear how the public announcement, and media attention, will affect that assumed acceptance.

All 50 states have had openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender elected officials, according to the Victory Fund, a national organization that helps gay candidates get elected. Additionally, national polls show growing acceptance for same-sex marriage. Recent national polls show a plurality of Americans support same-sex marriage.

It’s unclear if there’s a correlation between support for same-sex marriage and openly gay candidates for public office. If there is not, Michaud’s campaign may face obstacles to retain his ballyhooed strength in the 2nd Congressional District, a 10-county territory dominated by a rural, conservative population. It is also home to concentrated populations of the Franco-American Catholics who have historically had an effect on statewide elections.

Last year, Mainers voted to approve a law that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Fifty-three percent of voters supported the proposal and 47 percent opposed it. The campaign was managed by Matthew McTighe of the Gill Foundation. McTighe is now Michaud’s campaign manager.

During the same-sex marriage campaign, McTighe and proponents frequently touted their outreach efforts in conservative areas of the state. Despite those efforts, only two of the 10 counties in the 2nd District backed the same-sex marriage referendum. Overall, about 55 percent of the voters in the district voted against it.

Proponents of the marriage law made up their ground in the 1st District, winning all but one of six counties. Voters in Kennebec County, which is mostly in the 1st District, voted against the measure.

Nearly 45 percent of all the “yes” votes on Question 1 came from Cumberland and York counties, which include strong liberal constituencies.

Michaud’s announcement may draw national money to his candidacy. Last year, the gay-rights groups vastly outspent opponents of Question 1 – nearly 4-to-1 in the reporting period right before the election.

Michaud is expected to conduct media interviews Monday to further explain his announcement.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:smistler@pressherald.comTwitter: stevemistler
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